Division Creek Road & Armstrong Canyon

The obvious question would be, does this place really exist? A broad and inviting u-shaped valley in the Southern Sierra with walk-up access to snow? In June, no less?

The answer is yes, with caveats.

The incredible Division Creek Road really does exist, and it gets you to a stunning 8000' or higher, with easy access to the snowfields of Armstrong Canyon, Mount Perkins, and places beyond.

The catch is DCR is that rarest of creatures—a legitimate Eastern Sierra jeep trail—and the drive itself might prove to be one of the more exciting parts of your day.

I got my CR-V up to the first switchback (elevation 6300') a year ago, and decided to stop there because things got sharp and loose and I didn't have true 4WD. Nontheless, I sidewalled a tire on the way down. Clearance and tread does matter.

This past weekend we got up the road in a lifted Tacoma, which did fine, although it was a bit wide.

Note that most of the road is steep and exposed, and by "exposed" I mean if you slip off the edge, the result would not be survivable.

Also, if you happen to encounter another vehicle (or other blockage), there are few places wide enough to pass, implying one of you unfortunates will have to back up (or down) a long, long way.

So be aware the road is not a casual undertaking.

If you do get up there, wow what an access point. In a perfect world we'd have old jeep trails leading into all the key S. Sierra drainages, but instead this is it. Whether accessed by vehicle or otherwise, Armstrong Canyon is certainly a worthy Sierra destination for hiking and skiing.

On this day we skied a rousing line on a spine off a peaklette to the south of Mount Perkins. Attentive viewers may notice I actually get sideswiped by sluff in the middle of a turn, which made things a little more exciting than usual.

As of early June there remains a great deal of high-altitude snowpack in the South Sierra, though for skiing purposes you'll probably want to seek out protected north aspects for the best texture.

At present temperatures I recommend you begin your descent by 10:30 a.m. or so—and even earlier, if you're after east-facing aspects.

We had a lot of fun. Things don't always go so smoothly. :)

— June 8, 2023

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

Matt D June 8, 2023 at 9:03 pm

Incredible how far down the snow went, it was great seeing that glorious corn keep going and going.

Brad Brown June 9, 2023 at 6:33 pm

Is Dave B stalking you or was that a random act of skiing?

Andy's secret admirer June 12, 2023 at 2:58 pm

Always thought about that road but never been up. Thanks for the info! Emtb or dirt bike on the back of my sedan may be the best tool?!

Also, is Dave on tech bindings?! Is he unwell?

Andy June 12, 2023 at 4:43 pm

Dave has indeed locked his heel -- though he does still have his tele gear. It's just a topsy-turvy world nowadays, isn't it?

I was thinking the same on biking that road, but it's probably not that bike-friendly, up or down. :(

Brad Brown June 15, 2023 at 9:24 am

I heard some guy tried that bike theory in the Mammoth zone and it didn’t work out so good🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️😎

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